Sunday, July 26, 2015

This Ain't the First.

There's a big quote on the wall in the breakroom at Wal-Mart. It goes like this:

"Today is the first day of the rest of your life"

Taking away the context - Wal-Mart breakroom, the suggestion that Wal-Mart will be the rest of your life - I find quotes like that in general irksome. Unless you've led an entirely negative, awful, tragic, traumatic life so far and have just overcome the worst of it, there's no way it can apply to you. Not in the literal sense - I've been labelled as 'literal' more than once - but in the sense that it seems to nullify your entire past, as if it doesn't count. Only today counts, as the rest of your life. The past is void.

The past isn't void if you've made mistakes and therefore have life lessons and experience to lead you forward. The only way it's void is if absolutely none of it has benefitted you in any possible way. Then you can say, 'let's start all over again. Today will be the first day of the rest of my life.' Quotes like that should be hung up over the exits to prisons or rehabilitation clinics, and I mean high-security prisons and long-term rehab places. They should be hung in delivery rooms in hospitals, meant for newborns (this is where I get literal). They can't read it but I'm sure it can make an appearance in the background of newborn photos, visible to read later in life. It would mean something there. Putting it up in an employee lounge at Wal-Mart just makes everyone feel trapped and pathetic.

Nullifying the past, with its actions and history and feelings and mistakes, completely nullifies your knowledge of how to act in the present and future. True wisdom doesn't come from anywhere else, and "inspirational quotes" like this one in such a normal setting would only, if it worked, inspire someone for the very short-term. Because it says that every day. It's there. Suddenly nothing matters but the present, regardless of any achievement or life lesson you had, and typically, in the moment, the present usually only does matter. But in terms of wisdom and experience - don't nullify how you got here. That was part of your life too. Really, the only day that you can consider the 'first day' of your life is your birthday - and then all the great ups and downs and mistakes and achievements that brought you to the present.

I wish they'd take it down. I don't normally pay attention to it, but it's hard not to notice it at least once while on break. It's in huge lettering. I have no regrets. I'm proud of my mistakes. I'm proud of my decisions, because if they resulted in good or bad, either way, I became wiser as a result. I have no feel to start all over. Then I'd have to relearn everything all over again. Who wants to do that?

Red Cloud

Saturday, July 18, 2015


I haven't written on here lately or particularly recently and I've also been going back (particularly to 2010) to delete select posts I'd written. 

The reason for this is to trim out any negative, overly emotional stuff I may have put up in the past so this doesn't look too awful for any prospective employers. A typical, good idea for someone in my position.

The outlook isn't good, but it isn't hopeless. In terms of the summer, anyway. The ratio of my applying to places, when I can, of employers responding to not responding is actually pretty good I think. But I won't go into too much detail on that. The point is to remain professional from now on.

Song reviews, film reviews, observations that aren't too personal or too radical, those posts are alright. It's just the older, more immature, emotions-on-the-sleeve ones.

This censuring makes me think of the Supertramp song 'The Logical Song': "Watch what you say, or they'll be calling you radical, a liberal, oh, fanatical, a criminal..."

It's mostly why I haven't really written recently, as I think that what I may have to say would not be considered appropriate enough. In this vein, a blog should be about what you're interested in, but written in a cool, professional, easy-to-read way. It should be written to emphasize what you know about something to someone who may want to know. It should never be written to be manipulative or persuasive in an indirect way. It should be written for everyone, not one person to hopefully read it - I did that for too long between '09 and '11. Not anymore.

I should hopefully be somewhere between this autumn and winter of this year and spring of next year, at the very latest. Preferably this autumn and not next spring. But either way, I intend on taking flying lessons by then, so that will make things fun and interesting. After all, no one is at a standstill in anything. Unless you've lost all ambition, you're always growing and changing, so one thing will eventually lead to another.

Red Cloud

Friday, July 3, 2015


One thing about my interest in aerial photography that's definitely for sure is my preference for vertical, straight-down photos.

I like oblique ones, photos taken out a side window looking out over an area. Often you get very beautiful scenes. But they don't appeal to me as much as literally looking at the ground.

I can't fully put a finger on why. I think it's because of the depth, even though you're going to get way more depth looking out over an area than just straight down. I just don't feel as high looking out. It's a rare perspective - how often do you get that high, up in a plane - but to me it's not too far from being on a high balcony or atop huge hill. It's great, but not as, for some reason, appealing or high to me.

I'm talking about this because I went on a flight today, and for the first time ever, ever, I was able to capture my own aerial photos of my house, my old neighbourhood, and other various landmarks familiar to and frequented by me often. Sure, I have Google Earth. And all my NAPL-bought aerial photos. In that I have static imagery taken a couple of years ago or more, on a screen.

Not remotely close to the same as being up there, using your own camera, with the time of the day and the lens you have, etc. etc....

I think it goes way, way deeper than that, though. For instance, for the first time ever I caught a picture of my street - looking straight down onto it. I've never seen my house with my own camera that way before. Despite camera shake (my f/stop was too high) I could make out the kayak in the yard, the blue tarp over a gardening basket, even a small white container my mother uses to collect weeds in, lying in shadow in the front yard. The new tree that was put in. The green bin and recycling bin at the end of the driveway. What I find hilarious is that the garbage truck also shows up in the image, at the end of the street, workers in bright jackets visible as they collect the recycling several houses away. I can see activity happening in that one of several images I caught looking down on the street. There's obvious context.

Plus, and this is no doubt the same for everyone, there's the whole sentimental aspect of looking at your house, which is big and homely, and seeing it as a small little landmark amongst all the others, knowing all your possessions and livelihoods are under that small roof, on that little property. Being in the air makes everything tiny, distances short. There's that whole 'getting a sense of your surroundings' and how small you actually are in the big picture - that is, the whole neighbourhood, the city, etc.

I took no more than twenty or so pictures of the street I grew up on, because today was the first time I ever got to do so after over a decade's imagining it. The open space! It looked kind of small and average to me as a kid, but seeing it from the air, it's like the opposite - it looks obvious and big, laid back. Neighbourhoods aren't built that way anymore.

Orthophotos are appealing to me because you get interesting context without anything in the way, a great perspective of distance that's true (you could look many miles away in an oblique and the perspective would make it seem much shorter than it actually is) and the detail is much greater. And for a place or landmark I know, the level of familiarity and context is so high it's extremely pleasing. And it's my own image, not something from a satellite, with ultra-high resolution at only several thousand feet. Great colour, too.

When I came home afterwards, I took great pleasure in seeing certain things that I saw from the sky minutes ago, such as the police car at the intersection near me or simply the buildings and houses. It's such a different change between sky and ground. That may sound obvious, but you really have to experience it. They're re-working the entire road behind my yard. It was so much more obvious and 'there' from the air than I expected. I saw familiar machines I've seen for weeks in their same places. It was just amazing being able to get that kind of perspective of what I know is going on.

In September, I'm going to do the flying school at Rockcliffe. You can get your pilot's licence there. I think learning to fly would be a very good thing for me. No, I can't take aerial photos and fly a plane, but I can get help. And flying is simply just interesting to me. The pilot talked to ATC at the Ottawa airport to get clearance over Barrhaven so I could get those pictures (Barrhaven is under a departure/arrival path) and we actually got over there. I thought that was cool.
Never expected to get a shot like this - exactly the kind I've always wanted. That digger at the top was there yesterday, there it is now...and the recycling is being collected. I've never got an image of my own street so high and clear like this before.

It's just the stupid camera shake. There will be other times. I have a venue now - Rockcliffe.

Check out my new Facebook Page for this sort of thing:

Red Cloud

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Not Three (One)

Once again, Wal-Mart music has given me a rare bit of greatness.

In the backroom, all I could usually hear was the constant horn riff that plays from beginning to end, as well as the staccato guitar sometimes. It was great to finally figure it out. At first I thought it was a Sing solo song, but it's actually from The Police.

This is the kind of thing that speaks to me clearly and beautifully, almost entirely due to its genre. This is what makes me say "Reggae (and Ska) are my life." I love everything about it, from its musical structure to the riffs to the progression. And it's quite simple as well - just, in general, a G-F-D progression. A I-VII-V in G minor. It sounds like Andy Summers is simply rotating from G to F major chords. But considering his (and Stewart Copeland's) amazing proficiency, I'm sure he mixed in other things too.

I remember thinking at one time that 'All That She Wants' by Ace of Base would perfectly sum up my musical taste, thanks to its staccato piano riff, apparent sax and general sound, but this song does it much better. You get this 'fun' aspect from the music thanks to how it just sounds like it came from a jam session initiated by Copeland. It seems like they're just doing what they want in a jam, using that simple progression. Near the end Sting changes it up brilliantly by reversing it to D-F-G.

On top of its general essence they added a repeating horn riff, an occasional sax (which elevates it well) and thoughtful, virtually rapped-out lyrics about getting along together considering we're "all in the same boat."

It's upbeat and cheery and at the same time laid-back. That's what Reggae/ska often gives me - a laid back, easy-going tone that's colourful and clear. People seem to have these stereotypes that both genres are propelled forward by drug-inducing hippies that lie on the beach all day, or wayward types. And perhaps it can be silly or annoying for some to have someone play a piano or a guitar in short isolated little beeps rather than in long, resonating, connecting chords that fade. Maybe it's appealing to me thanks to the individual forms they create in my mind's synesthetic eye, instead of one long, always changing, connected one.

This song is virtually bathed in afternoon light for me. I get an image of tall trees looking in a northeast direction, with the afternoon sun on them, thanks to the bass and the guitar. And it's nice and long but not endless, so I can listen through it and lose myself in it without getting bored, largely thanks to Copeland's flourishing changes in rhythm and style.

Music: A
Lyrics: A-

This is a song that makes me happy in my musical tastes and interests, because it takes the genre and makes it sound so illuminating and beautiful and just laid-back and happy, easygoing. It appeals to what I love.

Red Cloud

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Simulated Escape

When I was a kid, the biggest computer game in my life was SimCity. I wasn't a big gamer - the only console I ever owned was a Nintendo 64 thing, which was older than me. My mother and I - as well as friends of mine now and then - would play the original Mario game on it, from 1985. That was fun. But other than the odd car-driving game, SimCity on the computer was really the only game for me.

I'll start with the backstory:

I was introduced to it through a boyfriend of my mother's way back. It would have been the turn of the new millennium. It was the classic SimCity he had on his laptop that wooed me over immediately. The idea of building a city was just so cool.

Over the years, I managed to acquire the succeeding versions of the game, with SimCity 2000 and SimCity 3000. I had difficulty starting the former because I didn't realize you had to click and hold to get a drop-down menu to access power lines; I'd put in a plant but nothing would be powered. I had a lot of fun with that for a while, and then a work colleague of my mother's gave me a copy of SimCity 3000. That was a whole new experience. I filled out entire terrains with high-rises; I built cities on real-life parcels of land such as Vancouver or Tokyo. One day I was feeling under the weather and managed to persuade my mother to call me in sick to school. Once she left for work, I put a blanket up over the window, went on the computer, and spent the entire morning and afternoon (and evening) playing the game.

Then SC4 came along. That was a game I craved. My mother made me work for it. I got points for doing chores, and once I got to 100, I could install the game. My paternal grandmother went ahead and bought the game for me at Lincoln Fields despite my mother's instructions, so she had to hide it from me from then on, but it was some achievement when I reached a hundred points and was given the game.

It was that version that took me the longest to master. Up to then, I'd been using cheats and unlimited funds in the previous versions to work around budgeting too much. In 2000, I just "took out a bond" every time I needed money to pay for more zones or roads, etc. They never seemed to run out (they did - but only after taking out hundreds of them). In 3000, I used a cheat given to me by that work colleague that eliminated a cost for anything, so that all I had to worry about was the fees involved with running services and facilities such as schools and water towers and fire stations, etc. In SimCity 4, no such cheat existed (there was one that magically put a thousand dollars in the city funds, but that was it, and I only learned that months after I got the game working). I had to seriously do my best to balance a budget while growing a city.

It took a year or so, but eventually I was easily filling out terrains and creating whole regions of cities. The game became something I would come to and play intensely, at all times, over moderate periods of time, and then I'd lose interest to the point I wasn't playing it at all. The biggest problem I dealt with was computer memory. We never had a computer that could run the game at its proper speed or full graphics, at least not for SC4.

Then, a few years later, SimCity was revamped and updated for another version - SC5.

I didn't go near it until I saw it on a shelf in FutureShop around Christmas 2013 and bought it because it was there. I wasn't going to buy a game I had to use online all the time. But by that point the developers had finally enabled it to go offline, so I went ahead.

This is where I come to the main reason I'm writing this post. I hardly ever play it, ever.

My view and interest of the game has virtually become the polar opposite of my dedicated obsessiveness over it from before. Ten years ago, I wasn't going to the bathroom until I couldn't hold it anymore, or eating dinner away from the computer. It's true I still eat at the computer - it's in the basement, away from the trolling dog, and I can watch TV or movies on it - but back then it was all because of the game. Everything was because of the game. I had to be playing the game whenever I was awake and not at school.

My current attitude is this: It's the perfect thing to suck the life out of you. I mean this in terms of avoiding everything in real life to sit and play the game on the computer. After updating the operating system on my Mac, accessing an account on the Origin platform EA uses (I originally created an account to download the original SC4 because my old CDs of it wouldn't install) and starting the game, I found that it was the perfect thing to take up all of your time and attention. I created a city and began learning how to play; it wasn't too difficult coming from SC4, considering that game had the biggest learning curve for me. A veteran of that game should have little difficulty with this one. The way it worked was very intriguing, the style and and graphics very eye-catching and neat. You can go to ground level with it, and literally speed up time. Building shadows move. And I was quickly finding that it's easy to enter the game and play but extremely difficult to stop. There's always something happening, always something to watch, always stuff to monitor. The big thing about SimCity - all of its incarnations - is that it's more a monitoring game than an intensive, active one. You monitor the budget, the traffic, any fires that could happen, any development that springs up from the zones you laid out. The budget. I say that again because that's probably the thing you watch the most.

I personally find at this age and level of maturity, and responsibility I should note, that SimCity is not a game that should be dove into too much. You can lose track of time easily while playing the game, and more importantly, for someone with low self-control, track of your responsibilities, to tasks or to others. It's a game best for playing when you have a day to yourself, with absolutely nothing to do, nothing to worry about, nothing to wait for, nothing that requires your attention or responsibility. This is for adults, of course - with kids, I'd actually recommend the game. In easy doses that aren't eight hours long. It's a great teaching aid to how a city functions, or at least somewhat how it functions. Your advisors can be a substitute for real-world city counsellors. Budgeting is a huge skill to learn to manage and use once you're an adult with expenses and an income. SimCity taught me so much about managing money. I know how to prioritize what needs to be paid first, and how to direct where my money goes.

It's a great game - I'm not putting it down with this adult attitude - but if I stress anything about it, it's not to get lost in it. I lost myself in it when I was a kid and younger teen - it really was like a simulated escape. Nowadays I have no interest in playing it unless I have lots of time on my hands and literally nothing better to do in the real-world. I've got a couple of cities in my game. I'll return to them eventually. But whenever I play it, I feel like I'm ignoring things that shouldn't be ignored, that I'm leaving the responsible real-world behind and eating up my time in the game. I keep at it for short periods of time. After all, you're basically going from monitoring real-world affairs that might demand your attention to monitoring simulated ones in a game, which can be just as easy to be swallowed up in.

Red Cloud

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Moonlit Driving Illusions

In the nearly three years I've been driving my car, I've come to find that there are certain songs that are just perfect for listening to quietly while driving along at night, mostly in the city.

This one's a perfect example:

It just sounds like night in the city to me. It happened to come on the radio while I was driving home after time spent with a friend. I was on Leitrim, with the moonlight shining on me from above. Then I saw the airport lights and masts, and it was perfect.

It's a smooth, cool-sounding song to me. Just the music's atmosphere. I originally thought a woman sang the lyrics, with backing female singers, but interestingly it's actually several British black men - literally black-skinned. I synesthetically get mostly nighttime imagery and scenes.

This isn't the only song that works perfectly at night - there are others, except I can't really name them because I never hear them enough to try to figure out what they are. Gowan's 'Moonlight Desires' works, though it sounds obvious. I should try and figure them out - maybe I can make a list and a subsequent CD or something so I get specific songs for each occasion. After all, there are songs good for driving in the morning or in the rain - 'Birmingham' by Amanda Marshall sounds like a morning song to me, while 'Sheriff' by Tenants sounds like an afternoon rush hour thing and 'Heart and Soul' by T'Pau sounds good to listen to in the rain. Songs for the dusk, evening, night, midday, whatever. Songs for after you've dropped your friend off and you have a bit of a drive home.

I will see about putting together a project like this, and maybe post the results when I have them eventually.

Red Cloud

Saturday, May 23, 2015


Got something to focus on, two 'new' songs I've put my ears to.

Of course they aren't new - one is from thirty years ago this year, and the other is from thirteen years ago (yeah, only thirteen years).

For the one released in 1985, it was something that has entered and left my mind lazily for the past twelve years or so, in similar fashion as songs like 'It Feels So Good' by Sonique, or 'Sour Girl' by Stone Temple Pilots, or 'Lotus' by R.E.M. Shortly after I first heard it, I recall playing a ball game with my then-friend Myles and Duncan during recess in sixth grade, and having the song blasting in my mind while kicking the ball around.

It was this:

As the background image shows, it was part of the soundtrack to that movie (Three Men & a Baby). I don't recall watching it in full, but I know my mother has it recorded from TV on VHS (something she did constantly throughout the late 80s/early 90s - we have a tub full of ancient VHSs of TV-broadcasted movies of huge range, all written down in faded pen on a label on the side). I do recall watching the movie's introduction however - which is where this song plays. It caught my eye - what I remember is a constant camera pan of wall sketches and drawings that continued on as credits showed on the screen as the song played. The song, like the wall drawings, stayed in my mind.

When I listen to it now, after having it randomly come and go after all this time, I hear exactly what my memory played - a bright chorus with a constant beat, a woman singing this "bad bad boy" refrain, and this resolution at the end. I mapped the root note of that chorus as E flat, which is a bright note/chord to use.

Like the typical 80s song, horns are prevalent and there's your typical booming drums that start the verse at the beginning. The horns are nice; the deep drum fills predictable - and the voice refreshing and attractive.

But to get critical here, there are some things I find problematic or pointless. Like the thirty-second drum introduction. You get nothing but this drum beat for half a minute, nothing else - then the deep booms come in to start the song, almost when you aren't expecting it. Deep booms start virtually every 80s pop song. Booms and horns and saxes and synths dominate 80s songs as string sections and funky bass lines dominate 70s music - while piano, tinkly drums, super-low bass lines and bubbliness dominate 90s stuff.

I find the song awkwardly put together. The progression isn't bad (the music sets the right tone for the song's subject matter) and the chorus is nice, but you only maybe hear it twice with three verses in between, a sort of bridge, and a long fade-out that's the same as the bridge - which has this annoying, faintly loud background vocal refrain of "bad boy, bad boy, boys will be boys" etc. over and over while the vocalist repeats "feeling restless," etc. over top. More could have been done to make it sound more clever and fun, because you find yourself surprised that it's already over, especially considering it may be easy to zone out during that bridge, brief final verse, and long fade out of the same. Yet it's over 4 minutes long. If I like the song, it's the chorus that shines to me, and that's about it. The lyrics are kind of silly when I think about them - "you call me on the phone, it goes ring...ring...ring-a-ring-a-ring..." Nice voice and all, just silly words.

Music: B
Lyrics: C-

Update May 28: I change my grade. I embedded what appears to be more of a remix of the song rather than the original. I've since listened to that and it's somewhat better - in terms of arrangement anyway (remixes are never chronological or smooth or linear to listen to). The music gets a B+; the lyrics basically stay the same - though I love the sensual-sounding "you naughty" line right before she launches into the chorus. And having seen the music video - what a beauty. Really.

The second song was yet another thing I heard at Wal-Mart. I've heard it a couple of times. To my surprise, the closing assistant manager gave me the name of the band even though the song had already ended by the time I saw him, so that gave me enough to lead me to the right song.

The very first thing you hear (not the ambient noise you actually first hear, the music) was what drew me in. And it came out in 2002. I'm not usually the type to go for this electronic disco stuff, or probably even album covers that are essentially crazy rainbow colours (then again, I quite like a couple of songs off of Cosmic Thing by the B-52's, and I especially like the look, colour, and arrangement of the album cover - just as rainbow-y) but it's the rare funk song that has a sound I find refreshing and clean and enjoyable. I could dance to it. I like the scratchy, tinny-sounding music progression during the "going downtown" refrain (I'll figure out the music in a second). It makes me think of long summer afternoons turning to evenings. It's D-DE-EA...AE-E flat-D. However, I dislike the male vocals during the empty drum verse, particularly the backing vocals that respond to the main vocals. It kind of sounds like he's stuttering and can't immediately remember the next couple of words to sing, and the little responses just make me think those voices are of young children. I'm not into listening to young children chanting. It turns the bit of song into a pep rally for children to me.

But the bass is fast and funky, altering between octaves, the guitar is fun, and the little keyboard bits are just as colourful and nice. The sound of the snare drum changes, which I like. The oddly-named band comes from Denmark, making them the second band from there whose song I kind of like. I say 'oddly-named' because while it's a good creative idea to pair up contrasts in a name, I find this one a little...too contrasted. Too obvious. Almost contrived in its obviousness. 'Celtic Slavics' or 'Canadian Americans' are oxymorons but don't sound as crazily apart or polar from each other as 'Junior Senior' to me.

Music: A-
Lyrics: C+

Seems I've found some great music but not great lyrics. Eh. They're songs I kind of like and may listen to more than often - at least in the latter song's case. Nice to get something new from Denmark. Other than Asteroids Galaxy Tour, the only other music I've heard from them was "Barbie Girl" by Aqua (yet another influence on how I perceive the 90s as blue). Thinking about that thing makes me laugh. I guess the Danish are pretty great at creating funky electronic stuff.

We'll see how these age with me.

Red Cloud

Friday, May 22, 2015

Being Twenty-Something Sucks

This world is filled with so many problems, it's implausible to list them all. Whether it's war or lack of food or overpopulation or whatever. Dictators executing people for glancing at them the wrong way. Politicians defying what democracy or international cooperation entails or means. Religious fanatics blowing themselves up or protesting someone's funeral because they are different in some way that opposes them severely - they ate the wrong food or fell in love with the wrong person.

You can interview any person, no matter who, and they will give you issues, mental or physical or memorable in some way, that defines their life or their attitude towards it. No one is born without imperfection or some sort of mental problem. No one is 'normal.' There's no such way to gauge it anymore, I bet.

Everyone has their share of drama or problems. And most of the time, no one is interested or has the time to really sympathize or empathize or merely listen. I was born with this Autism Spectrum disorder that no longer exists in the psychological world, so I'm nicely set apart in that regard. But, whether I was born this way, or experience has taught me to put up walls and gain a huge lack of self-confidence, I also have a huge difficulty with being openly acknowledging of people. Too shy to speak up, approach, show interest. Unless it's a forced situation, upon which there's an incentive that somehow blows up my courage because I know speaking up is a must. Like responding to a customer who asks me where something is at work. No problem there. But saying "excuse me" when they're in the way and I'm pulling something? My voice barely raises above the quietest whisper.

The way to get out of this negative focus is to do stuff. Focus on something else. I would do that if there was anything else to focus on; I've been feeling light-headed and queezy all day because of my stress thanks to where I work, where I do all the work for the benefit of my phone-staring colleagues and then get penalized for not getting it done as if I made an effort to do as little as possible. I work four days in a row starting tomorrow; I can feel the stress. And all the future paper cuts and blisters and verbal abuse. Nothing else to focus on - unless it's household chores or things that I would rather procrastinate on than do. Most people have friends to hang out with, but mine are too busy and too few - they have better things to do. I'm not being sarcastic: They have better things than me to focus on. Besides - I can't afford to go out and spend my money with others.

There's always the job search, which yields one apply-able result every two weeks, and the wait for the e-mail or call that never comes, and there's always that pointless dating site that shows off positive, encouraging, sometimes beautiful girls who want nothing to do with me, but all those do is remind me of how slow or nowhere I'm going.

Is this the depressing twenties chapter of life? Is this decade the most boring and frustrating for everyone? I don't know whether or not the ages of 21 to 29 tend to be rather tumultuous and negative more than positive. There are so many sitcoms from the 90s and 00s that depict twenty-somethings with their ups and downs, usually with their relationships. I haven't had any. I won't be having any. I'm stuck sitting at home with nothing better to do because to go out is to have money and a few un-busy friends to go out with (I'm definitely not wandering around on my own, looking as awkward and unapproachable as hell). You can't tell me to smile. I look creepy and chipmunk-y and even more awkward smiling. Picture Sheldon from that Big Bang Theory show. Yeah. It's that or the at-rest face, which looks angry and threatening.

I can understand if people are more frustrated or depressed than usual at this age than others. As a teen you have the safety and security of high school and its routines, and if you aren't like me, the guaranteed daily social affair with all your buddies from school. In your thirties you're likely to be nicely established by this point, perhaps with a fiance or wife, maybe even a baby, and a good start to your established career - a rising star, gaining valuable experience. The twenties though? Finishing the latter years of college or university, constant studying, working on a thesis or trying to accomplish a Masters - all while working a part-time job. No doubt that's stressful. Huge student debt, and then trying to find your first job in the field you got your degree or diploma or certificate in - all of which require five plus years of experience, and no less, with a B.A. or a Masters or some other credential that takes six years to get. With fifteen years to pay it all off. No doubt relationships are all very fluctuating and brief too.

Thankfully, at least for me, I don't have huge student debt, and while it took six years of being in and out of college again, I achieved two college diplomas (no, not a grand university degree or a B.A. or a B.E. or Masters or M.D. or whatever). I do owe some money to my mother of course, but I have a part-time job - hateful as it is - and I have been able to apply to places. But if I have a problem, it's that I have nothing better to do, no relationships to keep me busy, so all I can do is focus on things that make me feel pessimistic or depressed, like what I haven't accomplished or what I can't seem to be successful in - whether it's getting out of where I work into my preferred field, or being able to approach girls or even being noticed by them online (I haven't so far). What is there to do? Complain about it on my blog, I guess. After all, in those few areas, I haven't moved forward since high school. I bet some people from my past would think I'm different in that aspect, but sadly no. Still too freaking shy and mute and threatening-looking. Hey, I'm proving them right: It is not possible for someone to better themselves from their current shitty routines, character, emotions, or mental state - they just get worse. What a great contemplation. Those who had a negative impression of me (and were therefore dismissive and mean) were right. Well, I hope I'll be able to avoid fatal depression as the years go on.

Red Cloud

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

What it is - Conclusion

A few weeks ago, in an extreme state of willingness and open-mindedness about it, I went forward and tried an online dating site.

I've edited it a little bit and I've even done stuff of my own on there since. It's made me realize, as well as my friend who has always done this, that it's probably just as hard, if not more difficult, than the real world.

It's probably harder; it's "rare" according to my friend, for a girl to send her own message to someone else - the expectation is on my gender instead. So I sent about four of them, over time, to those I found both attractive but also largely similar in personality/interests (especially those who had both and even the same test results as me). None of them responded; none of them looked at my own profile (it tells you if someone has).

It goes to show how careful and hesitant people are online, as well as superficial. Maybe I wasn't attractive. Maybe I'm lying or exaggerating. Maybe I'm dangerous. The dangers of the Internet are just as evident, if not higher, on a dating site than elsewhere.

My friend noted to me that a lot of messages go unread and deleted immediately, partly due to an unattractive image and largely due to the shit girls likely get from guys who are looking for short-term benefits (i.e. sex) or pathetic come-ons, or just "stupid" messages. I don't blame them for that. That's the sort of conclusion I've come to about this: It's virtually impossible to judge someone as genuine on the Internet. You can say anything about yourself to lure someone else to you; you can manipulate people easier. A dating site is probably where people are the most vulnerable to it - so they put up defences. I've found that the majority of profiles say "not looking to hook up" etc. Besides, there are other websites that are specifically for that anyway.

My friend recently quit that site. It's kind of funny in a way, considering he was on it and then when I went on it he left. I saw his little profile. It used images I'd taken of him (including one in the studio) so girls could see him in a good light. He'd done a pretty good job describing himself. But he quit because, somehow, girls kept blocking him for no reason. He'd manage to chat with one, and when he asked if he could see her drawings, she blocked him. Another one blocked him because she wanted to watch a movie instead of chat with him. He quit in frustration. I don't know exactly what went wrong in the conversation, but gee, either way.

It hasn't been very long, and there definitely are a lot of striking people on that site, but I think it'll be a slow, careful process if I keep trying. I'm genuine, but you don't actually know that. I'm honest and I don't exaggerate, but you don't know that. At first I was annoyed that these girls would put up encouraging phrases like "message me!" etc. and then never even merely look at my own profile after I've sent a message, but I realize that really, a lot of them get weird crap from weird or scary or manipulative people, and no doubt they've probably had an experience where they've opened up to someone like that, someone not genuine, regretted it, and decided the whole online dating thing was much harder than they expected. They're looking for someone understanding and real - they just can't easily take the chance the one in twenty times the person messaging them is that kind of person.

I don't blame them.

I'm not quitting the site like my friend has - no one has blocked me yet - but I'm not going to solely rely on it. After all, you tend to meet someone when you don't expect it, particularly when you're enjoying yourself and you're very obviously happy with who you are and what you're doing, not via the Internet where nothing can be guaranteed to be transparent. It can be an alternative option if I see someone with a similar personality or interests and a nice face. Not literally "The Look" (green eyes, round face, resemblance to all the others I've developed crushes on) but generally nice. I wish I'd applied that more laid-back approach to when I first started using the site and went through all of those "meet me" pictures.

Be safe out there.

Red Cloud

Monday, May 18, 2015

Beware of Dog

I've had many pets throughout my life - from rodents like hamsters and guinea pigs to fish, cats and dogs.

I had a dog once, when I was a young child, and that followed with a multitude of cats over the years. Most of these were born from the first cat we got, which passed away in 2011.

Unfortunately, I've rarely had any good experiences with dogs throughout my life. My memories are largely of them snapping or trying to bite me, or jumping on me. The first dog we had once jumped on my chest and bit my face in either high excitement or in attack. I was on my back on the couch. That was great for me as a child. I don't remember this, but my grandparents' dog once jumped up and bit food out of my hand as I brought it forward towards my mouth, right at my face. From my mother's memory my grandfather was unsympathetic as the dog "lived" there and we didn't, but again, that's another point against canines for me. I recall a doberman jumping up and biting a piece of my shirt sleeve off as I rode past it on the street.

I have no irrational fear towards dogs. I'm not prone to running away in freight if I see one. But I have absolutely no interest in ever owning one on my own.

In January, I became part-owner of a puppy.

This was all my mother. It was something she wanted to invest in since the previous autumn. My uncle had a brand new, tiny puppy she made me hold. It was cute, I agree, but I still had no interest whatsoever in owning a dog. I made it very clear - I don't care if we get one anyway, as I'm not picking up after it or doing all the activities required for dog ownership, like walking or running out at midnight for a pee or entertaining it. That would be her responsibility (she wanted the dog).

It's a similar mentality I'll hold if I have children who really want a dog. I would never allow it until they were old enough to handle and take full responsibility of it on their own.

Soon I started getting e-mails with links to dogs she found listed online. In November, despite being a day I worked, I drove her all the way out into Gatineau (I mean deep into Gatineau) to look at a dog my mother found called "Chloe." We didn't get the dog. It may get to be "too big" for our house. I went into work two hours late and got in trouble for providing the reason I'd be late on the phone (there was no truck to unload, but I got my first-ever "talking-to" by management in 3 and a half years because I was being unfair to my colleagues who needed no help stocking in the absence of a truck). No dog, no money and a tarnished clean streak.

We eventually did get a Saint Bernard/Bernese Mountain dog mix in January. I forget the breed of the dog we didn't get, but I know it would never get near to being as huge as this mixed breed of dog. The irony was ridiculous. An hour's drive east out to Maxville and $500 later, we had a puppy that was the size of many other full-grown breeds. My mother was enamoured of the Chloe name, so that became the name of this dog.

I was willing to give the puppy a chance, of course. Let it prove my feelings and perspective wrong. After all, so many people are dog-lovers, and the species is basically world-renowned for being "man's best friend" etc., so let this dog make the species shine.

It didn't do any such thing.

Part of that is my fault, of course. Not being a dog-lover, I didn't give the puppy my complete attention 100% of the time. I did take it outside to the yard. I did run around with it out there. I did play with it in the house a few times a day. Most days I was home, and college usually only lasted a couple of hours, so Chloe wasn't usually on her own too much during the week. I didn't really walk her, but my mother did. I was largely indifferent otherwise. I didn't treat her with enthusiasm like my mother. I went downstairs and sat on the computer most of the day, while she sat in the living room. She won't come down to the basement, but she may go upstairs (the stairs to the second floor are carpeted). On the other hand, my mother bonded with her immediately and focused on her all the time, at least at first.

Winter turned to Spring, months went by, and now we're basically done with the dog.

Unlike other domestic animals, there's this whole psychology that comes with dogs that any beginner owner (which we basically are) would naively not really think to consider. That whole leadership thing. My indifference evidently came to look more like dominance as I didn't do what the dog wanted until I wanted to do it. My mother's enthusiasm was the opposite. We both thought, idiotically, that puppies were cute and fun and quiet and gentle and all that good stuff. They're a lot more like raising a toddler, or at least that's what others have told me. However, the difference between parenting a very young child and a very young dog, at least for me, is that toddlers probably don't snap or bite at you to protect what they've taken, or bark constantly (they whine, yes, but you can deal with that differently than with a puppy).

Chloe went from a quiet three-week-old puppy to taking things that weren't hers to chew on like TV remotes or socks or whatever. Taking them away wasn't difficult at first, but then she started to growl when we came close. One thing I absolutely couldn't tolerate was snapping for or begging for food while we ate. I never ate upstairs, while my mother fought the dog for her own meal. She even got her face into it a couple of times. The kitchen had to be blocked off, with her cage blocking off the bigger entrance, so that the room reverted to what it was before we took out the wall and made that second entrance. Chloe would jump on my mother if she dozed off on the couch. Outside, the two couldn't deal with each other because the dog would jump at her constantly and bite her clothes or coat, non-stop.

My mother brought home printouts on the two breeds and ideas and suggestions on how to raise or deal with her growing difficulties. It was highly unusual for the dog not to be put in her cage at least once a day because of something bad she did. Growling turned to snapping if we reached for whatever she had in her mouth. My mother kept telling me it wasn't an attempt to bite, just a warning. We had a couple of very bad nights where she literally fought us for something she had. The general atmosphere of the house went downhill. My mother became angry or frustrated or just sore all the time. I couldn't be too forceful with the dog if she acted out, because then I'd be the target of yelling too. The cats moved upstairs and literally stayed up in my mother's room all day, every day; they'd go downstairs to use the litter boxes, but otherwise maybe only Felix would come downstairs to try to be with us once or twice an evening. Each time would fail of course, as the dog would just bark at him until she got too close and he sprang at her, nails flying, or he'd just get up and go back upstairs. We had to put their food/water upstairs both because of their being up there as well as to keep it from being eaten by the dog. Almost all of my mother's clothes got a tear or a hole in them.

There were good times now and then, and when it's only me or only my mother around, she's better behaved, but the dynamic changed to where she'd be obnoxious if we were both in the room and quiet and easy-going when it was just one. A typical day home with me would largely consist of lying around, with a couple of times outside for awhile. I never trusted anything to be within reach of her considering I'm downstairs all the time, so she has nothing but her own huge amount of toys to play with (she has a tonne because all the books and printouts said "replace what she has in her mouth with a toy!")

Ultimately, the cons have overtaken the pros, though. Every time she acted out I warned that she would only get much bigger, so it had to be dealt with right away, but nothing seems to have worked; each method gives us a reprieve from the behaviour for a short period of time. Then it's back to what it is. We've gone through the Petsmart training (largely a battle of keeping the dog away from the others packed into the room, excited to play together, as well as a commercial for Petsmart products). We looked at other obedience training places. I guess my mother wasn't willing on spending the money. But it's become too much now, and she hasn't nearly finished growing (she's the size of a medium-sized full-grown dog now, over 50 pounds). Even taking her outside is a hassle, because I won't have her out there without being tied up; if she were free, we'd have to keep the side gate blocked off, and she jumps onto the deck couch, dirties it, and chews on the pillows while flinging them about the yard. Not to mention she jumps up against the patio door and muddies up the glass. After I cleaned it, I found a tonne of scratches engraved in the glass. The ceramic pieces from the open fire heater would also be looted around the yard, chewed on. And the digging...anyway. The other night, she finally bit my mother when she tried to take something away, so that's it. The bond is finally broken.

It's really unfortunate. I would guess that we didn't train or raise her the right way starting right at the beginning. We, or at least I, were not readily understanding of the whole psychology of the thing - what other domestic animal needs so much work? Say what you will about cats, but my experience with them has been exceptional. The only downside is cleaning their litter boxes - otherwise you don't really need to train them, or walk or pick up after them, and they don't have that "who's in control?" mentality. They can scratch, but they never have reason to - the dog is really the only reason. I've never been willfully snapped at or threatened by a cat before, except when I was a kid and I approached ours after it had been in a fight with another one and, still shaking and seething, it whipped my arm and opened an artery in an adrenaline response. Don't approach a cat immediately after it's been in a bad fight with another one.

I hate to say that we intend on selling our dog. I don't have any strong negative feelings about it, at least not any that are chronic and never diminished like my mother has now, but I was never interested in it anyway. That's another strike against this ever being able to work; I was willing to give her a chance to prove me wrong, but I still didn't fully accept the role, leaving my mother the bulk of the responsibilities, and she didn't do it consistently or, apparently, entirely right in terms of training or consistently asserting dominance. The dog just would not stop. Now it sits in its cage most of the time; otherwise it barks and takes things and runs amok when its out, with my mother too afraid to really do anything about it considering the dogs' willingness to hurt to keep what it wants, and I'm too unwilling to begin with. It's chewed both of its leashes in half; I've had to deal with listening to my mother yell at it for months, which I hate. Who wants to listen to someone progressively get angrier and angrier? It has no respect for us - it's decided it's in control no matter what.

There is a bright side to this, even though I've mainly been proven right in my attitude and feelings about dogs. Because of the crap this animal has put us through, I've developed a respect and appreciation for dogs that are well-behaved and laid back and rather fun and loving. I would happily let any of those lick my face and be the recipients of my engagement.

I will say this though: I'm at a point in my life where I don't want any responsibility for anything other than myself and those close to me. If I had my own place, which isn't too distant in the future, I would never have any pet. Dogs are more work than cats and birds and fish, etc., but I wouldn't have any of them considering I have more personal, better things to focus on at the moment. This is not to say I would never want to be a parent - my fears came true when my mother asked me how I could ever be in such a role if I have no patience with the dog - as, from my perspective, a child borne from you or thanks to you is directly related to you, something you helped create, not something you picked up at a farm three weeks after its birth and paid for for $500. I would feel endeared to my own offspring, honoured and ultimately willing to be patient with it and dedicated to its success in the world. Yes, babies and toddlers bite and vomit and decimate their diapers, they scream and keep you awake at night, but they're something that in the long haul will be a definitive asset to the world in general - and I helped it get there.

Anyway, this experience has not turned me off dogs altogether forever or anything, especially since I feel we're partly at fault for these issues, notably me, considering I was never that interested anyway, but again. I would never willingly own a dog of my own. I don't have the interest in establishing who's in control and training it, walking it, and picking up its crap, etc. etc. I like animals and all - but I'm just not in the right place at the moment to be interested in all the responsibilities, few or many.

Red Cloud

Monday, May 4, 2015

What it is and What it isn't

Something I would never even consider trying is online dating. I had a big, stereotypical prejudice against it. My basis was, if I've proven I can't make my way with the opposite sex on my own, in the real world, at all, then it would be a sorry last resort.

It's easy for me to see the negative part of things, or at least it was. Online dating or relationships have the possibility to not be genuine. The "girl" you're talking to could be someone else altogether, a different gender, who knew. I had decided it was a place for social misfits and people afraid to leave the computer in their basement, interact with real people, probably slobs.

Of course, there are many ways to look at something, and to presume is to decide without intelligence or any real knowledge. I presumed all of that, and until last week, that's who I thought went on there. I had a friend about ten years older than me that was your extreme nerd-type, but also your extreme online-type - everything he did or saw went on Facebook. From food at Harvey's to selfies on a bus to pictures of a TV screen featuring a game he or a friend were playing. Comments that made no sense to write or share with anyone - any synapse in his head ended up in my newsfeed. He aggressively did the online dating thing and didn't really seem to get anywhere, and when he did pair up with someone, it would turn out to be such an emotional wreck of an effort and time that he seemed to develop this perception that people with problems or issues only get steadily worse until they're incapable of governing their own lives. That ended the friendship for me. "My first impression of you is you're anti-social and negative as hell, so you're going to just get worse and never change. So I'm going to treat you with curtness and a short temper, because you are coming off that way to me in your talk no matter what and I don't like it."

One of my other friends - a very good one - also does this online dating, and through him my curiosity began to grow a little. The irony is that he looks exactly like that stereotype I'd envisioned, except he isn't extremely overweight and will leave the house. And also, because of his extreme disadvantages - he had a stroke at the age of 11 - I would tend to think, based on the superficiality of everyone in general, his success on a site like that would be a bit skewed compared to those without that issue, which sounds awful but probably likely. You can't get a true personality via a grainy, flashed-out cell phone image of someone's face online. If more people decided to see past the image, they might get a very warm, likeable, intriguing personality.

His typical answers to my questions about dating sites sounded like this:

"The girls on there are hard to please"
"You can send messages but they don't often respond back"
"Not everyone is similar on those sites"

Last Tuesday, I was feeling so open-minded about the idea, I decided to alter my stance on it. Instead of presuming the type of people that use sites like those, why not instead look at it as a way to maybe help grow my own confidence? A dating site's purpose is to connect you to girls (or guys) for the exact purpose of starting a relationship (of any kind) with anyone. Unlike Facebook, where most people just use it to keep in touch with people they already know or met in the real-world -  friends/family - and put up selfies, there's an intended end-product with dating sites. I'll put it this way: You don't go on Facebook to find girls to date.

From there, I signed up. I did some mild research and chose a well-known site I'd heard of that's actually Canadian-based. I found through my research that a lot of dating sites bait people into purchasing their services, so I knew what I was looking at when I signed up. I wanted to do this for two reasons: 1, to utilize a channel in this regard so that perhaps having a place to start will build up my general confidence, and 2 - to see if what I find is similar to what my friend experiences. Will they be "hard to please?" Also, this is a way to help destroy any prejudices and stereotypes I've developed.

I've found some positive and negative things. I'll start with the positives.

The online dating world is far from what I thought it was; it seems more like a combination of people like I expected - desperate characters pulling out all the stops to get someone - as well as people my age just keeping that channel open as an option to just have some social fun. Meet new people, etc. And those who adhere to that stereotype, at least in my search criteria, are few (the search criteria being they're in the Ottawa area and similar in age, 18-25). More than not it's just girls who would entertain something rather out of fun or to keep themselves busy than those who are intensely desiring that perfect soulmate.

As for the negatives, it's largely the photos. Taking a self-portrait by pointing your cell phone at a mirror is the worst way to take a self-portrait, especially if you've got the flash on. All you get as a result is a picture of you making a silly face at your cell phone (considering you feel you have to look at the screen to ensure you're composed in it). You can't connect with a person if it's a picture of them not looking at the camera. A large number of photos are crappy quality cell phone or webcam shots that are small, noisy (grainy) and off-colour. It makes a lot of people look unattractive - I'll bet a large number of girls are way more attractive than their images make them out to be - the picture just not doing them justice. I know most pictures don't do me any. Also, a lot of girls on there tend to upload group or couple shots where they're coupled with a friend or a group, so I have no idea who I'm looking at.

There's not much to do on a site like that. It's possible to send people messages or "favourite" them, as well as use this feature called "meet me" which is simply just someone's profile image with the option to choose "yes," "no," or "maybe" to "meeting" that person. I go through them when I'm bored. You could call it the most superficial way of deciding someone's attractive, because you only get a picture and the phrase "want to meet her?" above (with the aforementioned options). No username or information. The images presented are apparently matched to my criteria age and location-wise, as well as my listed preferences.

One feature I don't understand is the "users who want to meet you" page. If I were to click "yes" to "meeting" a person presented to me, the site would send a notification to her as well as to her e-mail saying they've got an admirer (me). Going to the site gets you nowhere; the page you go to tells you to upgrade (pay) to be able to view who it is that wants to meet you. Why do you even get the "meet me" feature then, if you have to pay to actually be able to get the outcome and "meet" that person? It's a bait to get people to purchase the service, as I'd previously read about.

Than again, this whole point is moot, because at the same time, the notification the girl would get in her e-mail would reveal the username of the admirer. All she'd have to do is copy/paste it into a search query, and find me instantly. You can't get the username on the site, because you'd have to pay - but it still reveals the user in the e-mail notification. Gee.

So far, I've been impressed in a few ways. When I signed up, it prompted me to take a chemistry assessment, to determine the kind of person I am socially. There was also a "needs" test, to figure out what I would theoretically need and thrive on in a relationship. The whole idea that a site like that would go that far surprised me, and I took the tests immediately out of curiosity. Most of the profiles I've glanced at have unfinished test results, which surprise me - I guess a lot of people (or girls) don't really take it that seriously. I took them to see what I could possibly learn about myself, and provide an insight to those looking me up (as implied, the results appear in the info on a profile). Another thing I was impressed with was the virtually non-ending amount of pictures that I'd go through in that "meet me" feature - these were supposed to be girls that matched my preferences as well as age and location, and though I did run out of pictures, I only did that by Friday, after four days. New ones show up minutes later, of course - they are almost always replenished with new matching profiles. It's like pushing a button until you've come full-circle. I haven't. I haven't seen any picture I've seen before yet. I probably never will. The site doesn't work that way. But gee. Are there really that many non-smoking, non-drinking, Ottawa-area girls in that age range on a site like that?

It's a much bigger community of relatively normal people than I ever thought it was. Unlike my friend, who is easily confident enough to send out messages to girls on that site all the time (as well as strike up conversations with them in public, like on a bus), I haven't managed to actually do much in terms of reaching out to anyone, but I have clicked 'yes' a few times in that 'meet me' feature, and one neat thing is that it tells me when someone has looked at my profile. Three have so far.

Anyway, that's what it is and what it isn't. The funny thing is, since at least 2010, I've had random Internet users contact me, claiming to find me to their interests and to want to start a relationship - this has happened to me on Scribeslice, a musician-match site I once went on (was invited to join it via YouTube) and via temporary Facebook profiles. Everyone probably gets those now and then. The point is I'm now in a position to receive real ones on a site specifically for that.

As I've put on that dating site, we'll "see what happens, I guess."

Red Cloud

Sunday, May 3, 2015

The 100-Year-Old Man Review

I know I've written about the novel and reviewed that on here already, but I haven't really talked about the film.

Originally, I had found a way to download it and watch it (considering it wasn't available here) but being a 90% Swedish-language film, with bits in Russian, Spanish, French and English, I could only follow it based on my knowledge of the plot of the novel. That didn't always help considering the film, as every film has and will ever do, took various parts of the novel and changed or removed them.

Last week, I happened to mention it to a friend, who brought it up on Netflix. Since when did it become available there? Because I'd just had my Internet service changed, I felt no worry in watching the whole thing immediately. On my nice speakers. With the Mac hooked up to my TV, now in the basement.

Netflix helpfully had a version with English subtitles as well as Allan providing an English narration. With that, the film finally opened up fully for me.

I don't need to explain much of the plot considering I've already done the same with the novel. I will note that Alan doesn't cross the Himalayas, nor does it go into much detail of his arrival in places. The whole Tehran bit is removed as well (after all, he crossed the mountain range to end up there). But it does go into more visual detail on certain things only briefly mentioned in the novel. Like his father advocating the use of contraception ("this will end poverty!" etc.) The Never Again gang is changed somewhat, so that one of its members finds Allan and the gang at the farm does so because he's an ex-boyfriend of the Gunilla character and just wants a reason for seeing her again. Per-Gunnar Gerdin's name is changed to Gadden, and has an ankle monitor so he can't leave his apartment.

Allan's vacation in Bali is also removed, and changed so that its relation to the plot is entirely related to the Never Again gang. In the novel, the group's boss, "Pike" Gerdin, is awaiting the money from the Russians via Bolt, his courier, thanks to a drug deal with them. Bolt is the person Allan steals the suitcase with the money from, screwing everything up. In the film, it appears to be the other way around, with Gerdin - now Gadden - and Never Again owing money to an Australian man in Bali, perhaps for the same deal. This subplot comes and goes as the man gets more frantic and angry through cell phone calls, waiting for confirmation about the money. After the group rams Gerdin/Gadden on the road with the bus, he ends up with memory loss and apparent mental retardation, and when Allan asks for an idea of where the group should go next, "Bali" is the only thing that crosses Gadden's wounded head.

The Yuri Popov character is slightly altered as well, so that as Allan meets up with Yuri in Russia in the 60s, he has a son named Alec. Allan gives the boy his Vice-Presidential lighter (originally a gift from Truman) as a little gift. This Alec character grows up and maintains a close relationship with Allan, running am international courier business, and he's the one who spirits everyone, elephant and all, to Bali.

I think the film works out well. Visually, things looked pretty authentic from a historical point of view, and they got some good actors to play the notable leaders of the time. The story is told pretty well as well, and it appears a little more realistic than the crazy story the main characters come up with to the prosecutor at the end of the novel. It was a little funny in places as well - Allan's laissez-faire attitude regarding the recently-killed Bulten character (he was sat-on by the elephant) starkly contrast's the rest of the group's urgency and hysteria as they try to figure out how to get rid of the corpse. Allan's only concern is whether anyone wants to join him for a swim.

I'd probably rate the film a B+. No film can perfectly cover everything a novel could, but it's visually authentic, realistic, interesting, and kind of funny and absurd.

Then again, I don't need a translation for bird song. "[bird song]"

Red Cloud

Tuesday, April 21, 2015


Last week, a recent classmate suggested I try LinkedIn. I've never tried it before; I never considered it and rather thought of it as a very professional, serious thing that I wasn't ready to join yet. I thought of it as a network for the serious business professionals.

By this point, considering I've finished my education for good and am now in the job market for something in my field, I'll do anything if it'll help, and it's probably not as "high-end professional" sounding as I first thought of it as. So after asking around about it a little, I signed up.

I did everything it asked me to do. I added as much as I could on my new profile. All my education, work/volunteer experience, certificates, whatever. The bubble at the side jumped from "new" to "expert" very quickly. It asked if I wanted to add a certificate in English, and I agreed to take a test to add it. After that test, I realized it was actually an English-as-a-second-language test, but what the hell.

I added a few people close to me who were, to my surprise, already on there, including my "uncle" living on Calgary (not on Facebook - but on LinkedIn!). I found a lot more individuals I'd known on there than I ever expected.

Because I hate being the perpetrator behind those silly, stupid, bubbly chain notification e-mails ("I want to add you to my network!") I avoided letting the website send invitations to connect to my contacts. Instead, the website ushered all of them into a page for me to look at if I wanted to connect with "people I may know" if any of them were already on LinkedIn. And a lot of them were. Gee.

From there, I wrongly treated the website like Facebook - I left it on, in case anything happened, such as a new connection, or an update of sorts. Most of my new contacts accepted or added me whenever I happened to not be on there anyway, so instead I got a variety of what I did not want to see in the least.

This is why, from now on, I will never go on to LinkedIn for no reason other than to address any notification that comes to me via e-mail. It's otherwise a bulletin board of girls I've known in the past, and parted acrimoniously with.

It's kind of pathetic. Every time I go to the main page, 3 out of 4 times it will advertise a redhead I once knew at McDonalds in the "people you may know" gadget. If I click to view my own connections, I actually end up on the recommendations page, with that same icon and name and current "headline" (job). Even when someone connects with me, the notification e-mail has - hey, look at that - "people I may know" underneath, with guess who?

Yesterday, I decided to look at some former classmates from the first year I returned to Prof. Writing. I saw that girl I was friends with in one list. That put me down. Today, my recent classmate, the guy who suggested I go on LinkedIn, my first connection, added her. Out of all the other people graduating last year. Just her. No personal connection between them, nothing. Just connected. It shows up in the main page every time. "New connections!" Come on!

I have never felt so negative after joining a network. For me it's like joining a club which everyone has already been apart of for awhile, and a quarter of them are girls you used to know that had an issue with you in the end, and they won't stop staring bluntly. At the same time you know you can't go near them, while they mingle with your own connections.

I'm keeping off that site. I don't need to know anything about anyone. If someone approaches me and wants me as a connection, great, I'll reciprocate. I don't need the page running. All it gives me is Wal-Mart news anyway (I automatically "follow" Wal-Mart thanks to my adding it as a current job). If an old female friend whom I train-wrecked with wants to add all my personal connections (ignoring me of course), let them. I won't see it. What an emotionally draining site. I know. It's my own needless issue.

*Update May 3rd: To be honest, all of those connections really just make me chuckle. It's just the one I really train-wrecked with that annoyed the hell out of me. They're the most recommended person for me on there now. Oh well.

Red Cloud

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Driven Away

As I mentioned in detail in my post referring to the song 'I Cry' by Bass is Bass, I perceive the 90s in a blue-white colour. Print media from the decade that I was exposed to probably had a big influence on that.

There was that song, and then this one by Amanda Marshall, that gives me this blue-white 90s imagery at full-blast:

I was exposed to her via my mother. Somewhere in my house is a cassette tape of that exact album of hers shown in the video above. As soon as I heard the opening piano in the car on Boom FM a few months ago, I recognized it immediately, but couldn't place it until I heard Marshall's voice.

The lyrics narrate a story of a woman defiantly leaving her abusive husband and fleeing the city in which they live (Birmingham). Marshall gives quite a valid reasoning for the woman's walking away - apparently the guy uses a gun to change channels on TV. I wonder why Marshall's writers behind the song chose to set the song in Alabama's largest city. Is/was it a likelihood domestic relationships such as this one could be more rampant there than elsewhere?

Asking that question, I wonder what a writer would write behind a song called "Ottawa." Birmingham would be the setting/title of a song about domestic abuse. What would Ottawa be about? Or Toronto? Or Calgary?

Losing faith in the Sens, stumbling upon an opportunity, and getting to the "promise land" would be my guesses. "Interstate" would be changed to "Trans Canada Highway" though.

But about the music. There are a few elements of the song that are present in other adult-contemporary 90s songs - such as the hi-hat rhythm (offbeat) for example. Or the really low bass lines, or the jazzy guitar near the end. The Soprano sax in the middle.

As for the imagery it gives me, it translates into many visuals in that colour pallet. One notable scene I get is of high-rise buildings off Fisher Ave, bordering the Experimental Farm, on a cold, late afternoon. My mother lived there before I was born, and I can picture her coming and going from there. This is during the music of the chorus. The sax during the bridge is really pleasing. It gives me nighttime Manhattan images (you get exactly that in the music video for 'Near Wild Heaven' by R.E.M., from 1991, and hey, even in blue). That, combined with the jazz guitar at the end, give me the general look of sitcoms from that time, most of which took place in grey or cream-coloured Manhattan apartments. Like Seinfeld or Friends or, well, not NewsRadio. That was a radio station.

I see settings or ideas based on my awareness of memories I have from that time. Like seeing my father downtown, seeing downtown from his truck, etc. Cloudy days with a blue hue to them. The piano consists of white shapes not too different from several musical notes on a staff glued together as a chord, but with the stems pointing downward.

It's a very good song that gives me a partly nostalgic view of my childhood in the form of seeing places I've only seen in media from that time, as well as what I see as general attitudes from that time. It sounds quite likable to me. The lyrics tell a nice story.

For a grade, I'll give it:
A - Music
A- - Lyrics.

I like the acoustic that comes in now and then as well - it also seems like something used in more than one contemporary 90s song. And Marshall is yet another Canadian (although her mother's from Trinidad & Tobago). We produced some pretty good things at the time - songs that for me, overly visualize it for me. Which makes me like it quite a bit.

Red Cloud

Wednesday, April 8, 2015


In the past I've tried starting a couple of 'specialty' blogs, like the art-focused one I have on this domain that was supposed to be handled by both me and my father, as well as a photography-focused one on here as well (created for my Photography program).

On Tumblr, I tried a similar thing based on the original photoblog that got me interested in photography in general, [daily dose of imagery], where I would post one image per day. That worked out amazingly; I posted several images on one day, then one ten days later, then another a month later, and another two months later.

I blame my laziness at image production - the idea was I used Lightroom to import the image into a special catalogue, edit it a little, use Photoshop to edit it more, and then upload a web-size version to the Tumblr blog. That whole process - including double-checking the image metadata such as exposure, etc. in writing my descriptions and adding all the darn tags and italics and whatnot wasn't conducive to my self-discipline. As far as I'm concerned that blog is virtually defunct, although there are some pretty good images on there I think.

This time it's different. This time there's no nonsense with Lightroom and 1-per-day rules and extra editing and technical descriptions, fancy italicized titles. On Facebook, my panoramas - specifically my equirectangular panoramas, and the stereographics that go with them - are enjoying a constant audience of people that really like them. It's gone as far as some old high school classmate's girlfriend adding me because he showed them to her (to be fair both are students in the same photography program I graduated from). I like to think I've mastered what I've been learning and practicing for the last five years, from the equipment to digital masking and stitching.

So alright then. I've created a Tumblr-based photoblog that is nothing but these equirectangulars I've produced over the years. People seem to like them - as well as the stereographics - so why not create a place to put them, and without the uptight process of cataloguing them, 'processing' them, figuring out exposure times and f-stops that were used, image numbers, and fancy bolded/italicized formats of descriptions. I put whatever I want on there as long as it's an equirectangular panorama that I created, past or present, stitched perfectly or erroneously.

All I do beforehand is make it web-sized (otherwise the 33mb images would never upload) and add my name at the bottom to ensure credit is obvious.

It doesn't matter how old or new it is, and the description I write is minimalistic and individualistic. Instead of describing the image, I just point out when the main subject was built. That screenshot above is of a panorama taken in May 2011. I could tell you it was taken on Prince of Whales Drive, south of Hog's Back, with residential housing across the street and a co-op housing development at the left called Carillon. Nah. But hey, it was built in 1978. In my pano of the parking lot at Merivale Mall, all I say is that it was surfaced in 1977. I use my own aerial photos for accuracy.

This is much more easy-going than cataloguing and editing images every single day. I can continue to add more as I create them. Who cares if some are old and stitched badly?

This new site is a photoblog for images of a specific type, which are posted when I want. Should be no problem to keep up with something like that. I'm happy people seem to like them.

Almost forgot: The ___________.Pn refers to how I label my panoramas on the computer. The one above would be something like "PrinceofWhalesPn." Pn obviously standing for 'Panorama.'

Red Cloud

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

One Singularity

There are all sorts of novelty-type songs out there, from 'She Blinded Me With Science' to 'I Ran (So Far Away).'

Then there's "Bang the Drum All Day" by Todd Rundgren. That upbeat organ-driven tune with all the voices almost monotonously singing 'I don't wanna work/I wanna bang on the drum all day.'

I wouldn't listen to it normally if it were suggested to me, but it happened to unusually play on the radio recently, and I was surprised at the actual full song; I'd only ever heard the chorus, considering I'd only ever heard the song in commercials, movie trailers and other media and the chorus would be the only part featured. It's not an over-used, boring progression when you count the verses. It's not something I've heard a million times, and it's also not complicated.

Upon first hearing the organ of the chorus, I'd assume it to be a 1-5 progression like every other song, except it isn't. It's a 1-4. And it appears to be in D major, not a commonly-used minor. D to G major. On the organ, those chords with a C added in the middle.

But what really interests me is the man behind the song. I read up on Todd Rundgren and learned some impressive stuff. Obviously this isn't his only song, and he's still active. This song was produced in the middle of his career, in 1983. What's most interesting? He did everything himself.

The album this song is from is called The Ever Popular Tortured Artist Effect, and it was one of his last albums produced for a major record label. Apparently he produced it out of contractual obligation rather than out of personal interest, hence the title, but the point is, he did everything. He played every instrument and recorded every instrument. He engineered and produced the album, and directed the picture on the album's cover too.

Rundgren is one of those people I could consider a role model with something like that. He decided he'd rather be in control of how his songs, voice and style went, so he learned how to produce and engineer songs in the recording studio, and did it all himself. Just about any usual band at that time would hire a producer, or their label would hire a producer for them plus advance money for a studio, and then the creative team would be established and either work or not. Rundgren was his own team.

To be able to do that is one of my own goals. The only thing I wouldn't really try is sing, and even that isn't something that would be entirely off the table for me. It would just be my learning to deal with hearing my own voice, as well as acknowledging whether or not it would be nice to hear for others. But I see myself playing every instrument and recording them. I would engineer and mix my own tracks, build my own studio, create my own melodies and write my own lyrics. I'd do the art direction on the cover of the album. If a music video was warranted, I would direct it.

There's definitely people like that out there, people who want to control everything. It's good in moderation. And I wouldn't bar anyone else from contributing, nor would I micro-manage every single aspect of their contribution unless it completely had nothing to do with the direction I'd be going in. But if I meet my goal and produce a few albums, it would be all my creation with help from a few others. I have no interest in following others or working for others. No label would get my signature, if any were ever interested, unless they gave me 100% creative control over everything - and no obligations, no "five albums in ten years" type of thing.

Many artists do their work on their own, by themselves, independently. And yes, most people have no idea they exist, because they aren't mainstream, they aren't shepherded around every radio station/music video channel by a major record label. They don't have the connections to have a huge exposure. If I went the way I want to go in, hardly anyone would ever hear me.

That's perfectly fine.

If I met my goal, if I got to a point where I was producing my own albums in every aspect, I wouldn't care whether or not I had huge exposure and a website to handle my fans. Too many people are in it for the fame and money and exposure rather than the passion and the creativity. This is a side hobby for me. I create what I want so I can listen to it as well as anyone who's interested. However, I think that people like Todd Rundgren are pretty rare when they can produce a few songs by themselves and have them end up as something everyone's heard somewhere or another, the kind of thing where you recognize the tune but can't necessarily recall the name or the artists' name. My goal may not be to be famous or huge through my musical creativity and production, but if one song of mine finds its way into everyone's subconscious, if one song ends up as the kind of thing where it's almost a novelty or a recognizable-yet-forgotten tune, I'll be pretty happy. Because when someone strives to do something on his/her own through a powerful, ongoing passion that won't go away and gets recognized for it, however little or much, that's when people like that finally win. It's the underdog aspect.

If I can do something without really looking for fame, just out of passion and creativity and happiness, and get some minor exposure and acknowledgment for it that's positive, I'll be happy; I want to be someone remembered for proving and emphasizing that you can do it yourself, especially if you believe in yourself. Todd Rundgren proved that, and in a smaller way, so did Karl Wallinger (World Party). One-man team - the strength of your own efforts at work. My goal isn't to have a major hit. But if I had something minor after some real hard work, I'll be satisfied. Because I did everything myself. I didn't even have to feature a rapper.

Red Cloud

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Single Multitracks

I'm starting right to the point with this song, which I've reviewed on here before. I also referenced it as a song in A major. Back when I first found it and listened to it, I had some misconceptions about the song that I wrote down - for example, the descending guitar riff and the 'quiet' guitar is the same guitar. I also pointed out that it sounded nostalgic and that the drums had this neat 'reverb' sound to them. That isn't a product of the recording. It's a product of bad sound quality that hid the true sound and volume of that 'quiet' guitar. That's why I embedded a lyric video version above that has truer sound quality.

Nowadays I liken the song to exuberant happiness at seeing someone, a girl's happiness, and being me, that someone she's happy to see is me thanks to the key and who it makes me think of. This is largely thanks to the guitar sound.

It's probably common knowledge that most artists and bands record by multi-tracking - recording each instrument one at a time, one instrument per track(s). The drums each have their own track and are usually recorded first. Then the bass guitar. And so on. After each instrument and vocal has been recorded and re-recorded, the best take chosen, they are mixed together for dynamics, etc. and committed to a single master track from which the studio takes to the press. The result is a stereo (two channel, so two speaker) single track of all instruments and voice as the completed song.

Due to the way music is distributed, and how the market works, you can't buy a song taken apart with each of its original multi-tracks. And you can't really isolate instruments or vocals in audio programs either - you can extract certain channels in most to remove an instrument or two to hear others better, but you can't literally silence every single other instrument but for the vocals, or isolate only the piano track. The only way to do that is to look online for torrent files of ripped Rockband or Guitar Hero files which have .moggs of the songs used in the games - which themselves are digitally copied or transferred files of the original instrument multi-tracks. You can open them in Audacity, and you get the multi-tracks of a chosen song, giving you the power to take it apart and listen to each actual instrument in a song one at a time.

In searching for a remix I'd found of the song by The Cure awhile ago on YouTube, I stumbled upon a rare greatness. Someone had uploaded each individual track to YouTube - the vocal track, the drum track, the bass guitar track, the guitar, etc.

To hear how each instrument is played with literally no distraction is quite an awesome thing. For me, I get the exact synesthetic reaction to it and see everything as I hear it perfectly, and I also hear things I didn't expect or notice before thanks to the rest of the song.

This instrument track is the reason I like the song virtually at all. And I can tell that this is itself a combination of two or more guitar tracks, because it's obvious it's quite layered. In the song, it's obvious but not nearly as much, and it's relegated to the left channel (left ear/speaker).
The first chord-like picks (A & C sharp) and the second - B & E I reckon - have their own spatial direction, form, and complimentary relationship with each other as one follows the other. With that I get a mixture of happiness, eagerness, anticipation, and reason for it. Then the second two - D & B and D and F sharp (I think) are a further building up of this as well as justification for it and fulfillment of it. The D note combination has that final high to it. All of it is a green/blue and makes me think of that type of face I like, and someone I see now and then. The best parts are not necessarily the main descending riff (which is also great and has a bright blue-white colour to it) but mostly the F sharp-D-A bit that plays instead of the D-F sharp combination (the guitarist is essentially playing a descending D major note-by-note twice).
The guitar's actual sound - achieved probably by a pre-amp or effects board - is a big contributor to how I see it. It's chiming and bright but nice and low at the same time. It's what gives me the colour while the picking and style of picking give me the stylistic form, shape, and direction.

There's still an obvious reverb on the snare drum but it doesn't sound as distant as it did on the original version I would have embedded on here. The drums are probably the only instrument in a song I would not really need to isolate to figure out exactly how they're played. They're always loud enough. However, one thing I did notice is the difference of crash cymbals - the drummer hits a tinkling one and a flat-sounding one. I didn't originally pick up on that first; a lot of 80s songs used that particular flat crash sound. I also confirmed that the bass drum isn't simultaneously struck along with the toms when that common fill comes along. I didn't really think so originally. It's a bad habit I've fallen into when I occasionally play this on my drums.

I have very little to say about this track out of interest. The bass playing got some nice compliments in reviews I saw on the song's Wikipedia page. All I have to say is that it smoothly and correctly follows the song's chosen progression exactly. Otherwise, there is no deviation in it - even in the pattern of the picking. Pick-pick-pickpickpick-pick-pick-pick-pickpickpick...I appreciate songs that have bass lines that don't necessarily have to have difficult progressions, but do something different once or twice. Follow a progression, but add a little style to it, add another complimentary note, alter your playing style slightly. Don't pick a line exactly as you picked it last time. Use the same note an octave higher once or twice. If you wanted to learn how to play this song to the picking style, all you'd have to listen to is the first completion of its progression on the bass, and you're good, except for the F sharp minor - G major bit in the pseudo-chorus.

This is one track I was eager to hear, after the electric guitar track. The rare but very welcome acoustic guitar track, with some added bit of keyboard near the middle. This compliments the right channel in the song while the electric is in the left, and this guitar isn't nearly as easy to listen to over the strings-like keyboard synth. You get it full-on here. I think a 12-string was used, because it sounds dense, and I also think the guitarist didn't bother barring the B minor chord, as I do not hear the deep B note sound, just the higher strings.
Even though this guitar only follows the progression of the song, like the bass does, it's much more interesting to listen to because it simply sounds good thanks to the instrument's tone, the playing style, and the instrument itself. I have no idea how the player was able to energetically strum it so fast over three minutes, constantly. I couldn't go that fast, and not nearly that long. Plus he doesn't strum it exactly the way he did it before on each round of the chord progression, as the bassist does with his pick. Near the end he starts quietly and builds up to a crescendo. It just sounds warm and good. I love how they added this instrument to the song.

This is the track for both the synth keyboard (fake strings) and the piano part that plays over the second verse and the bridge. In the song the "strings" give off a complimentary emotion that makes me visualize the same face and a perceived personality off it (this perception applies to anything else that gives me that face in the song, so it's like a person with a face and personality has come to life via the instruments through synesthesia). On its own, however, it just makes me think of a Star-Trek scenario, space, science fiction, space-like technology, etc. Then there's the piano part, which sounds a lot more computer-based than real. Its echo (which I never noticed/heard on the actual song) and perfect sound give me that impression. Like it was programmed into a computer connected to the keyboard through MIDI and done on it. The piano sounded dreamy in the song. Alone it sounds too processed.

Finally, the vocal track. I'm kind of impressed with it. Despite no song around it, I still can't get exactly what he says once or twice thanks to his vocal tone/inflection, but otherwise he sounds quite emotionally invested in what he's singing. His voice nicely portrays that emotion well. His is a good voice for the song, and you can hear the meaningfulness behind it.

To finish, isolating each instrument's track in a multi-track-recorded song often reveals some good things, some amazing things, and now and then some boring or off-sounding things. I love the electric guitar - it does still sound endearing and happy and layered and beautiful, and works independent of the song - but the keyboard synth alone does not, and the piano was revealed to be way to computer-y to me on its own. The drums didn't reveal anything considering they're naturally loud enough anyway (the only way I'd get messed up in hearing the drums is if a tambourine mixed with the hi-hat, but you don't need to isolate the drum track for that most of the time to figure it out) and the bass turned out to be exactly the same note-for-note, pick-for-pick throughout. The vocals contained raw emotional energy, proving Robert Smith did his job, and well. Finally, the warm, happy, wonderful acoustic addition. I could easily listen to this song for only its guitars, but of course, in the end, the song as a whole is the best product, because every instrument in it is vital to the overall energy, colour, tone, image, and altogether, every instrument sounds awesome. Otherwise the song would only be in one dimension. Without all its clothes on. And of course, knowing now how each instrument sounds on its own exactly, I can notice and hear all of that in the full song now. It sounds better as a result.

If only music could be released that way. I would never tire of having an emotional bliss with that.

Red Cloud